HomeCommunity NewsCommunity Gathers for Disaster, Night Out Events

Community Gathers for Disaster, Night Out Events

Pictures of different disasters lead guests to the LCHS auditorium for the main event

The Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station has been busy the past week educating the community about the many resources they have to offer.
Members from all areas of law enforcement got together at La Cañada High School on July 20 to inform the community of what to do when disaster strikes.
Lt. Ryan Vienna, the master of ceremonies for the event, gave the audience the definition of a disaster.
“The Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA defines a disaster as an occurrence of a natural catastrophe, technological accident, or human caused event that has resulted in severe property damage, deaths or multiple injuries,” said Vienna.
The event, which was hosted by the La Cañada Unified School District, was live-streamed for those who couldn’t make it, having at least 2,600 viewers. It was the first event like this that the station held.
“It’s great to know that the message we’re trying to send out could reach a much larger crowd, because this is not just a La Cañada or La Crescenta issue,” Sgt. John Gilbert told the Outlook Valley Sun.
“This is a problem that affects the entire county,” he added. “So, we’re glad that we could put this on a format in which we can reach more people.”
Before the main event in the LCHS auditorium, booths in the parking lot were set up for La Cañada Flintridge residents to explore.
The booths varied from organizations like the Crescenta Valley Water District, the Los Angeles County Disaster Communications Service, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Community Emergency Response Team, and the Montrose Search and Rescue Team.
Guests were then ushered into the auditorium where they heard from Sheriff Robert Luna and Capt. Robert Hahnlein from the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station to start off the event.
Luna talked about the importance of LASD when disaster strikes and being prepared.
“From an emergency preparedness perspective, you are surrounded by men and women who are not only nationally recognized for their capabilities, but actually known around the world,” said Luna.
Hahnlein broke down the process of a disaster from a sheriff station level.
“My goal tonight is to give you a broad insight into what you may generally expect from your local law enforcement agency,” said Hahnlein.
He said that their response to any situation is based on the information they receive. The local station must then figure out the capabilities to combat the disaster if it can be handled at a station level or if they will need additional resources.
“We as law enforcement are here to keep you, the public, safe,” said Hahnlein. “Once we receive an emergency call for service, a first response is initiated. The role of the deputy when he or she arrives is to assess what’s going on and assess the incident. Once it is assessed, the deputy will coordinate an appropriate response.
“It’s important to know there’s a major difference between an emerging disaster and a major catastrophe,” he added.
Two speakers from LASD’s emergency operation bureau were also present, Sgt. Jason Van Genderen and Sgt. Charles Simmons.
“We are in a very resource rich law enforcement area,” said Van Genderen.
He explained the process of the job itself, in assisting stations if they need more help. They will be the ones calling other stations, counties or the state to get the assistance a station or specific area needs.
Simmons reminded the audience that when a disaster strikes, they are not alone.
“It might take time for our guys to drive down from Marin County, Stanislaus, or Mono County but they’re coming,” said Simmons. “They are very eager to come out and help from a search-and-rescue standpoint.”
Members from the search-and-rescue team who went to help Turkey after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in February were also in attendance.
Assistant Director Mike Leum, Reserve Deputy Cynthia Moyneur, Reserve Deputy Marco Rubio and Deputy Robert Sheedy — all from the LASD reserve forces bureau — were asked to talk about their experiences and share a ground perspective from a catastrophic earthquake disaster zone.
Leum shared how he heard about the earthquake, and called six people who he had known for 20 years and trusted with his life to join him on this mission to help Turkey.
“Now, it’s hard to describe to you the sights, sounds and smells,” said Leum. “We’ve all seen earthquake aftermath locally. But to see it for hundreds and hundreds of miles is pretty daunting.”
Leum described the constant coat of dust in the air, and how the city survived with no power or running water. Language was just another barrier for the team.
Moyneur didn’t want to sugarcoat her experience in Turkey as she recalled their first day there, seeing trucks filled with bodies traveling down the street.
But she was able to take away the good she saw too, like neighbors helping each other to get the food and water they needed.
She recommended the community to start a support group around disasters and come together as neighbors to get to know each other and see what needs each of them had.
Rubio emphasized the need for preparedness.
“Again, it’s not if, it’s going to be when, and we have to all be ready for that,” he added.
Lastly, Sheedy talked about the mission itself and how it was nonstop, trying to help people who were trapped.
“Imagine L.A. getting hit with a 7.8 earthquake for 90 seconds,” said Sheedy. “I’m sure it felt like an eternity.”
Paul Dutton from the Crescenta Valley community emergency response team gave the community a reality check to make sure that they got prepared. Dutton was the person who originally came up with the idea to do this event for community members.
The CERT program is an initiative that teaches people how to better themselves for hazards that may affect their communities, said Vienna.
Dutton has been a civilian volunteer for CERT for the past 21 years. He and his wife have taught 40 classes to more than 800 people in their 24-hour emergency preparedness course.
Dutton told the community that they have to ask themselves if they are ready when a disaster strikes.
“You got to ask yourself, that, despite all these great resources, and the resources that will come to us, we might just be on our own for a few days,” said Dutton.
He urged people that they have to be prepared to have supplies and resources for up to 30 days if a disaster strikes.
“We talked to people like Southern Cal Edison, who said, ‘if we have a major 7.8 earthquake, the greater Los Angeles area might take 18 months to get power back,’” said Dutton. “That’s kind of scary.”
He told the audience that he doesn’t want them to think it won’t happen to them or their city.
Dutton recommended the community to start having a family reunification plan, a pair of boots and a change of clothes by their bed, along with a series of fire extinguishers. He said that he has at least six scattered throughout his home.
Dutton offers a free in-home emergency safety inspection to residents and has a 25-item checklist that he goes through. For those interested, call (818) 378-5440.


The Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station, like many other stations in Southern California, held their National Night Out event on Tuesday to educate the community on their local station.
About 30 organizations came out to celebrate with the station like Athens, Starbucks, California Highway Patrol, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, to name a few.
Gilbert said that it was the station’s second year doing the event since the pandemic.
A large turnout of residents and their children enjoyed the festivities with freebies and hot dogs.
Melissa Chavira and Dondrea McAllister from the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, a law enforcement association that fights for the best wages, hours and working conditions for its members, were in attendance and enjoyed supporting the station.
McAllister explained how they had been busy trying to attend other National Nights Out.

Dondrea McAllister and Melissa Chavira from the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs attend the annual National Night Out event
Booths lined up in the Crescenta Valley Sheriffs Station parking lot for community members to learn about their local law enforcement and organizations on National Night Out

First published in the August 3 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.


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